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October 16, 2020, 11:51 am CDT
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A family court judge in Broome County, New York, has been removed from the bench for “a pattern of injudicious behavior” that allegedly included sexist and belittling comments to court employees.
The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, removed Judge Richard H. Miller II in an Oct. 15 opinion.
The court said Miller should be removed for a “broad pattern of misconduct,” combined with an inability to recognize the seriousness of his actions. He also had a prior censure for violating ethics rules when he was a part-time judge on another court.
The appeals court sustained findings by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The commission had concluded that Miller made several inappropriate comments to a court clerk, including:
• If he knew that she could cook, “[he] would have
gone for [her].”
• She looked “really hot” in an outfit and should always wear it.
• “It’s nice to know [he] still ha[s] that effect on [her].” This was said after she apologized for having a hot flash.
He was also accused of yelling at a court assistant, telling her that she wasn’t doing her job properly and saying she had to move faster. When he learned that the assistant complained about the behavior, he filed a written complaint against her that criticized her job performance.
The commission also said Miller had initially failed to declare extrajudicial income on his tax returns and on his financial disclosure forms. The undeclared income consisted of $27,000 in legal fees that he received for work before he became a full-time judge and $38,600 in rental income. Miller later said his rental properties, when considered as a whole, operated at a loss.
He didn’t amend the tax forms and a financial disclosure form until he was under investigation for ethics violations, the appeals court said.
The commission also found that Miller had his secretary draft a letter that was unrelated to her court duties.
The New York Court of Appeals said the instances of injudicious behavior by Miller were not numerous; indeed the court assistant testified that she was “flabbergasted” by the judge’s behavior because she had never seen him act that way before. But it is the nature of the wrongdoing, as well as the frequency, that determine the appropriate sanction, the court said.
The ABA Journal was unable to reach Miller for comment. The New York courts’ website lists Miller’s number at the courthouse. Personnel there told the ABA Journal that they could not provide contact information.
ABAJournal.com: “Judge should be fired for ‘sexist remarks’ and other misconduct, commission finds”
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